State House Rep. Holly Raschein's first town hall meeting, 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Marathon Government Center, will focus on wastewater funding, windstorm insurance rates and changing the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority board from appointed to elected.
Last year, the Florida Legislature finally allocated the first $50 million of $200 million promised to the Keys in 2007 for state-mandated wastewater projects. Raschein plans to request another $50 million this legislative session, which starts in March.
"I think things are looking very good for us right now," Raschein said.
But a case before the state Supreme Court could end up diverting money. Depending on the outcome, Florida may have to pony up the 3 percent it began making state employees pay toward their pension benefits, she said.
A steady rise in windstorm property insurance rates in the Keys during the past several years has created enormous public outcry and has Keys officials looking for more insurance companies to cover the island chain. Ninety-five percent of the Keys are currently covered by the quasi-state government agency Citizens Property Insurance Corp., supposed to be an insurer of last resort.
In November, residents overwhelmingly voted to change the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority from a governor-appointed board to an elected body. Raschein will have to file the legislation to change the state laws governing the utility.
Raschein will hold a town hall meeting in Homestead in the new year.
She addressed the Monroe County Commission on Wednesday for the first time since being elected. Raschein discussed the upcoming legislative session as well as the fourth annual "Florida Keys Day" in Tallahassee, set for April 23. The event, in which dozens of Keys elected officials and business leaders converge on the State Capitol to lobby and educate state legislators, has become a success over the year.
Raschein, who has organized it in the past, calls it her "baby." Last year's focus was obtaining wastewater funding; this year it will be increasing awareness of the Keys fishing industry and its importance to the community, she told commissioners.
Raschein has been appointed to the Agricultural and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, the Economic Affairs Committee, the Veterans and Military Affairs Subcommittee, the Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee, and the Local and Federal Affairs Committee.
Her district office, to be opened next week, will be in Suite 10 of the Damron Building, Mile Marker 99 in Key Largo.